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7 Leadership Team Failure Factors
Jim Clemmer

When our kids were young I was often reminded of the old adage “children act like their parents — despite all attempts to teach them good manners.” When one of our kids did something I wasn’t especially pleased with, I found myself asking “where did you learn that?” When I stood back and I reflect on it, I can start to see where that behavior came from. Their mother!

Well... maybe not. When I was honest and took a longer look in the leadership mirror, I saw that I modelled some of that behavior. But it is often tough to recognize our own behavior being reflected back to us through the people we lead. Now that our kids are starting their own families it will be fascinating to see behaviors cascading further.

In our work with culture development we can see a variation of leadership modelling; people in organizations act like their leader — despite all attempts to train them otherwise. An organization’s culture ripples out from the team leading it. Many leadership teams don’t recognize their own behavior reflected back to them in their culture.

In my blog, "Is Your Leadership Team Slipping into These Traps?" I outlined seven common traps snaring many teams (see below). Priority overload, unaligned change programs, leadership lip service, not building capacity for change, poorly run meetings, conflicting messages, and lack of follow up are typical culture shortfalls that start at the top.

7 common leadership traps

  • Speed traps and tyranny of the urgent – flooded by e-mails, endless meetings, and crisis management our team is often reactive and loses sight of the big picture.

  • Partial and piecemeal programs – leadership development, succession planning, customer service, lean, safety, talent/performance management, IT systems, executive coaching, are separate programs not well linked together.

  • Leadership lip service – leadership team members send contradictory messages about our core values and desired culture through inconsistent behaviors.

  • Not building change capacity – our change and development efforts don’t engage the hearts and heads of key leaders and frontline staff and don’t energize and equip them to make it happen.

  • Teams not pulling together – strong leaders drive change in their “silo” and work at cross-purposes. This weakens the team and our culture development efforts.

  • Communication breakdowns – leadership teams aren’t united in strategic priorities, key messages, behaviors that model our vision and values, and rigorous implementation planning.

  • Failing to follow-through – strategies and development plans often lose focus because we don’t have a robust implementation process engaging key teams with a disciplined follow-through process.

    Assess your team

    We’ve just developed a brief assessment to help leadership teams look in the mirror. Click on Seven Leadership Team Failure Factors to take the 14-item assessment. You can complete the assessment and compare your total score with our scoring guide. There are also links to additional leadership team development resources.

    An even more powerful approach is to have your leadership team complete the assessment and compare your scores.

    A culture can’t exceed its leadership team. The team sets the pace and direction by their own behavior. What the team does overshadows what its leaders are saying. What example is your team providing?

    For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.

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